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May 22, 2012 > Letter to the Editor: Summer School - the Academic Fraud

Letter to the Editor: Summer School - the Academic Fraud

Does everyone deserve a second chance? Of course not! When a traveler misses her flight, the airline services will not compensate her with a free ticket. When a gambler exhausts his life savings, his neighbors will not rescue him with their own money. When a senior submits a mediocre essay, college admission readers will not return it and say, "This is no good, but I'll give you one more try."

A society that guarantees total equality for all - a society obligated to give second (and third and fourth and fifth and...) chances - is a doomed one. This would mean that a teacher must allow less accomplished students to retake tests for however many times they want, so their grades would match those of the smarter students. Not only is this concept misleading and flawed, it is also a slap to the face for the more responsible, successful people who are then place on the same level as inept redo-ers.

And yet public education chooses to ignore this blatant truth. As this summer approaches, FUSD counselors are recommending nearly 3,000 high school students from the entire district to attend a 6-week educational program known as summer school.

"Our goal is to help students who are behind get back on track. Summer school gives them the credits they need to fulfill college requirements or to simply graduate," said one AHS counselor who prefers to remain anonymous.

But just how effective is a 6-week education in covering an entire semester's worth of information?

"It depends, I suppose," the counselor, more reluctant now, admits after considerable hesitation, "on the students and the teachers-how well teachers teach, how well students learn."

"You have to remember that they are remedial classes and that the students have had already learned the subject before entering summer school," another counselor adds. "Everything will be a repeat."

What they say is true, but in reality, whatever insufficient subject matter that the failing student managed to grasp during the regular school year will remain just that. A former summer school biology teacher tells me that he could not possibly compress such vast amount of knowledge into such brief period of time. If instructing a strictly informational class like science is ineffective, imagine the trial of the more abstract courses like English which require prolonged practice and exposure. Furthermore, according to a graduating senior who failed chemistry during his sophomore year, "It [summer school] is a joke. I didn't learn anything." He comments that his teacher was incredibly lenient and that the only plausible barrier to passing the course would be being disruptive, tardy and/or absent.

Mounting testimonies and anecdotes illustrates that these replacement courses' intensity (or rather lack thereof) is only minimally comparable to that of full-semester courses. Instead of redeeming themselves through diligence, students see summer school as a cheap and easy way to fake their efforts. Although summer school fails to teach students what they need to know, it does accomplish its purpose - granting credits to those who don't deserve them.

Let's not forget the students who take summer school seriously, who truly want to succeed and learn. Inevitably, there would be a scant minority whose poor performance is not blamed on apathy or misconduct. Don't get me wrong; I am not advocating neglect towards these struggling yet diligent students because, frankly, what can summer school offer them besides credit hand-outs?

Going to summer school every day is like wearing a badge of shame that ceaselessly screams, "I'm a failure! I'm a failure!" Enrolling means essentially immersing students in a culture of delinquents and prank-pullers. Summer school is an obvious waste of their time and effort when underpaid and overworked teachers are unenthusiastic about instructing. These students are the reason for scholarships and grants which can support a better education elsewhere; summer school does not deserve such valuable specimens.

Despite prevalent problems, students who have passed their courses, choose to turn a blind eye and a deaf ear. I used to think, these issues didn't affect me because I'm not failing and thus have no need for summer school. I could not have been more wrong; [summer school] teachers are paid. Where do these funds come from? That's right, from the unhealthy school budget that allocates less than a dollar per student. It is ridiculous that nothing is being done to stop inconsiderate students from tearing a hole in the thin school wallet. New textbooks, better projectors, higher quality lab equipments, and decreased class size are replaced by an inept program of "learning." In the end, the responsible are punished for the actions of the irresponsible.

Public education must adjust in response to student demands, and one of the most distinct concerns is summer school. Imagine the rise of parent and student involvement during the regular school year when there is no longer an easy back-up class to take during break. Imagine students elevating academics to a higher priority when they realize the more pronounced risk of not graduating high school. Imagine the satisfied teacher, more motivated to teach because the students are willing to make the effort. Imagine an expanding school budget that enriches the high school experience. Imagine counselors who are more concerned with helping students learn than with graduating them. Imagine schools that place quality of education over quantity of graduates. Imagine diplomas that represent the true merit of deserving students.

Second chances are a privilege, not a right.

Annie Li

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